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Champions League Preview: Group D

A close look at the UEFA Champions League 2021-22 Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol

UCL Trophy - Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League

Group D of the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League is almost identical to Group B of 2020-21. Coincidentally, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk have again been drawn into the same group, Sheriff Tiraspol replacing Borussia Mönchengladbach this time. Let’s take a look at each team’s prospects for the upcoming tournament.

Note: All lineups in the article are mere predictions.

Set-piece takers courtesy of: Fantasytipsters

Betting odds: Sportsbettingdime

Underlying stats: Understat


Inter Milan

  • Coach: Simone Inzaghi
  • 2020-21 League finish: #1- Serie a
  • Odds to win the tournament: +5000 (SBD)
  • Penalties: Lautaro Martinez (FWD, €10M) , Edin Džeko (FWD, €7.5M), Alexis Sánchez (FWD, €8M)
  • Direct Free kicks: Hakan Çalhanoğlu (MID, €8.5M), Marcelo Brozović (MID, €6.5M)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Hakan Çalhanoğlu (MID, €8.5M), Ivan Perišić (MID, €8M), Federico Dimarco (DEF, €4.5M)

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After Real Madrid, Inter Milan is the second favorite to make it out of Group-D, a relatively straightforward group on paper. However, in a similar 2020-21 group, likewise tipped to make it to the knockout stages, the Italian champions were left shell shocked by Borussia Mönchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk to disappointingly finish bottom.

Inter today is arguably weaker than the side that won Serie-A last season, having lost key players like Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, who were instrumental in the Nerazzurri’s title success. Likewise, the exit of manager Antonio Conte, the most integral part of the title-winning team, will strain Inter this season. Simone Inzaghi’s appointment could improve Nerazzuri’s chances of a deep run in the Champions League — He is possibly the most impressive Italian coach of the past few years. Likewise adding Edin Džeko and Hakan Çalhanoğlu to fill the aforementioned voids.

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Fantasy Prospects

Lautaro Martinez (FWD, €10M)

Hellas Verona FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Employed as a second striker behind target man Džeko, Lautaro Martinez could score for fun again this season. Playing as a second striker with Lukaku in the 2020-21 Serie-A, Martinez amassed 17 Goals plus 6 assists (xG -16.89 & xA- 6.31) in 38 appearances. With Martinez set to take penalties and continue playing as the second striker with Džeko, the output of the Argentine should be as good as last season if not better, making him an attractive fantasy asset.

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Edin Džeko (FWD, €7.5M)

Edin Džeko has taken Lukaku’s role as Inter’s target man and seems to be working like a charm at the moment. Although Dzeko scored only seven goals with three assists (xG-14.25 &xA-2.37) in the 2020-21 Serie A, the Bosnian can be considered a touch unlucky, uncharacteristically missing easy scoring chances. This season though, Džeko has scored one and assisted one in two appearances, already looking sharper than he did at Roma. At €7.5 M, Džeko is one of the best value options with relatively easier fixtures than other assets in the price range.

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Possible 11

  • Samir Handanović
  • Alessandro Bastoni, Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar
  • Ivan Perišić, Marcelo Brozović, Matteo Darmian
  • Nicolò Barella, Hakan Çalhanoğlu
  • Lautaro Martinez , Edin Džeko

Real Madrid

  • Coach: Carlo Ancelotti
  • 2020-21 League finish: #2- La Liga
  • Odds to win the tournament: +1600 (SBD)
  • Penalties: Karim Benzema (FWD, €10M), Eden Hazard (MID, €9.5M)
  • Direct Free kicks: Toni Kroos (MID, €8M), Luka Modrić (MID, €7.5M), Isco(MID, €7M)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Toni Kroos (MID, €8M), Luka Modrić (MID, €7.5M), Isco (MID, €7M)

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Real Madrid’s Champions League campaigns have been disappointing by their mighty high standards. Although two semifinal exits and one round-of-16 crash in the last three seasons isn’t necessarily bad, trophies are the only way into the hearts of the Madridistas, so the pressure is mounting on Carlo Ancelotti and his players to deliver a much anticipated title.

Nicking Kylian Mbappe would have made Madrid one of the title favorites, but Los Blancos still have a squad that can challenge. David Alaba’s arrival and the return of Eden Hazard (from injury) and Gareth Bale (end of loan) could boost Madrid’s hopes.

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Fantasy Prospects

Karim Benzema (FWD, €10M)

Real Betis v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Benzema is Real Madrid’s talisman, and it’s always smart to pick the “main man” of a team in UCL Fantasy (though he is not main enough to expect PKs etc). With relatively favorable fixtures, “Big Baller” Benzema could menace defenders this season. Benzema is coming into the tournament on the back of a decent Euro 2020 performance and an excellent league campaign in which the Frenchman scored 23 goals while providing nine assists (xG -19.45 & xA -6.76) in 34 appearances. He would have won the Pichichi trophy if a certain Lionel Messi hadn’t outscored him, but then again, who does Messi not outscore?

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Dani Carvajal (DEF, €5M)

With David Alaba set to be relieved of his temporary role at left-back by the imminent return of Ferland Mendy from injury, the competition for center-back roles will tighten. Only two of David Alaba, Éder Militão or Nacho will feature in the back four, so picking center-backs from Real Madrid is a gamble. To avoid this rotation risk, Dani Carvajal — one of the most nailed-on players in the Real Madrid starting 11, looks a good buy at €5M. The right-back has already scored this season, looking creative and clinical down the right-hand side. Plus, Real Madrid’s easy fixtures in the group stage improves his chances for clean-sheet points, making him a good fantasy asset to own.

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Possible 11

  • Thibaut Courtois
  • Dani Carvajal , Nacho, Éder Militão, David Alaba
  • Isco, Casemiro, Federico Valverde
  • Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard

Shakhtar Donetsk

  • Coach: Roberto De Zerbi
  • 2020-21 League finish: #2- Ukrainian Premier Liga
  • Odds to win the tournament: +15000 (SBD)
  • Penalties: Lassina Traoré (FWD, €6.5M), Tetê (To be listed), Júnior Moraes (To be listed)
  • Direct Free kicks: Manor Solomon (MID, €6M), Marlos (MID, €6M), Alan Patrick (MID, €6.5M)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Manor Solomon (MID, €6M), Dodô(DEF,€5M) , Marlos (MID, €6M)

After a brave display in 2020-21 to finish 3rd in Group B above Inter Milan, Shakhtar will hope for more this season. In qualifying this season, Shakhtar comfortably beat Genk 4-2 over two legs in the third round and edged past Monaco in a nail-biting 3-2 win, courtesy of an extra-time own-goal turned in by Monaco’s unfortunate Ruben Aguilar. Drawn into the same group as Real Madrid and Inter Milan for the second successive season, the Ukrainian club will be happy to repeat their previous year’s feat of a 3rd place transfer to the Europa League.

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Fantasy Prospects:

Lassina Traoré (FWD, €6.5M)

AS Monaco v Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Champions League: Play-Offs Leg One Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Lassina Traoré is the stand-out fantasy option from Donetsk. The ex-Ajax prodigy had a cracking 2020-21 Eredivisie campaign where the Burkinabé scored seven goals and provided five assists in his twelve appearances. Although there are better options at this price point with similar fixture difficulty (Olivier Giroud, Martin Braithwaite & Antony to name a few), Traoré could be a decent differential as he has a high ceiling and could also share penalties with Tetê until the return of Júnior Moraes (ETA 31 October = MD-4).

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Tetê

Tetê, who is yet to be listed in the UCL fantasy game, was Shakhtar’s break-out star last season. The Brazilian scored eight goals and provided four assists in 36 appearances, including a goal plus an assist in Shakhtar’s famous 3-2 win over Real Madrid their Group B game.

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Possible 11

  • Andriy Pyatov
  • Dodô, Vitão, Marlon, Mykola Matvienko
  • Maycon, Alan Patrick
  • Tetê ,Marcos Antônio, Manor Solomon
  • Lassina Traoré

FC Sheriff Tiraspol

  • Coach: Yuriy Vernydub
  • 2020-21 League finish: #1- Moldovian Divizia Nationala
  • Odds to win tournament: +150000 (SBD)
  • Penalties: Sébastien Thill (MID, €5.5M), Lovro Bizjak (FWD, €5.5M), Frank Castañeda (MID, €6M)
  • Direct Free kicks: Sébastien Thill(MID, €5.5M), Gustavo Dulanto (DEF, €4.5M), Frank Castañeda (MID, €6M)
  • Corners & Indirect Freekicks: Sébastien Thill(MID, €5.5M), Gustavo Dulanto (DEF, €4.5M), Frank Castañeda (MID, €6M)

Sheriff Tiraspol made history by qualifying for the Champions League group stage after failing to make it out of the qualifying stages on eight previous occasions (2008 to 2020). Sheriff Tiraspol is the first Moldovan club to qualify for the group stages. Sheriff’s path was anything but easy; the Moldovan champions had to get past household names like FK Crvena Zvezda (aka Redstar Belgrade) and Dinamo Zagreb. Although facing the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid is an entirely different proposition, the Sheriff faithful will be glad the club has come this far. If the Wasps manage to pull off an upset, the fans and the players will cherish the memory for the rest of their lives.

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Fantasy Prospects

Frank Castañeda (€6M, MID)

SERBIA-BELGRADE-FOOTBALL-UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE-QUALIFYING-CRVENA ZVEZDA VS SHERIFF Photo by Predrag Milosavljevic/Xinhua via Getty Images

Sheriff captain Frank Castañeda is the talisman of the club. In the 2020-21 season, the Colombian netted a staggering 33 goals in 42 appearances. He will look to continue his goal-scoring hot streak in the Champions League.

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Other options

Elsewhere, Adama Traoré (€5.5M, MID) (Not to be confused with the Wolves winger) has been on fire in the Champions League qualifiers, scoring four goals and providing two assists in eight appearances. Sébastien Thill (MID, €5.5M) is the main set-piece taker of Sheriff and has great assist potential. Thill also shares penalty duties with Castañeda, making him an excellent value option.

Possible 11:

  • Georgios Athanasiadis
  • Cristiano,Danilo Arboleda, Gustavo Dulanto, Keston Julien
  • Sebastien Thill , Edmund Addo
  • Adama Traoré ,Dimitrios Kolovos ,Frank Castañeda
  • Momo Yansane

NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League

If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!

If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!

  • League: Never Manage Alone
  • Code: 71MQALVG07

Are there other options we haven’t talked about? Why are Tete and Junior Moraes still unlisted? Which team will win Group D? Which team will finish second? Which team will secure 3rd place and transit to the knockout phases of the Europa League? Who will win the Champions League? Who will win the Europa League? Do you have thoughts of your own? Please share them in the comments section below!

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